It's a disaster!

Trump explaining that he tried
Donald Trump, explaining that he tried, but healthcare is complicated and the Democrats are mean
Ryan explaining that he tried
Paul Ryan explaining that he tried, but governing is hard, and there was a bloc of 'no' votes
Participation gold star
Participation gold star

| So much for "I alone can fix it." The self-proclaimed lets-make-a-deal artist went down in flames this afternoon when Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the American Health Care Act from the floor before a vote that he knew he would lose.

After a flurry of last-minute attempts to appease one side or the other of the Republican caucus, Trump declared last night that he was done negotiating and it was time to vote. That, of course, is straight out of The Art of the Deal: Walk away when you can't get what you want and declare the deal is off, knowing that the other guy will probably come back and give you more. As Trump quickly learned, that may work when it's CEO on CEO, but it doesn't work when you're negotiating with a passel of politicians.

Interestingly enough the split in the Republican party was over substance of the bill, whereas Trump approached it as a matter of salemanship and/or coercion. But the differences within the Republican party, although on the content of the bill, were irreconcilable. On the one side were the hardliners of the Freedom Caucus who were against the proposed Trump/Ryan bill because it wasn't mean enough and didn't hurt enough people sufficiently by shredding the safety net. On the other side were more moderate members who had gotten an earful from their constituents who, on the verge of having Obamacare wrested from them, suddenly discovered that it wasn't so bad after all and told one heartbreaking story after another in town halls, at least to those members who were brave enough to hold one.

And the politics of the situation were not conducive to passage. The Ryan/Trump plan was to split health care "reform" into three parts, the first of which would be done through the process of reconcilation, thereby requiring only 51 votes in the Senate versus 60 votes to break a filibuster. But already there were an ample number of Republican senators who were opposed to the bill to make it fail. Further, parts two and three are so far only bullet points on a Ryan Powerpoint presentation, and hardly anybody really believes that they would ever come to pass. Thus, it was a hard sell to convince House members they should take a very hard vote that had no hope of becoming law and would provide a rich basis for attack ads, from left, right, and center, in 2018 when they are all up for re-election.

And so, all the horse-trading cancelled itself out: mollify a Freedom Caucus conservate and alienate a moderate, and vice-versa. And the longer it had gone on the more opportunity for people to learn and understand the awful things the bill was going to do to them. The latest Quinnipiac poll found Americans opposed to the Republican health care bill 56% compared to only 17% in favor of it.

As a result, Obamacare remains the law of the land. The Republicans repeatedly claim that it (O'care) is failing and in a death spiral, but the Congressional Budget Office found no such thing. The danger is that Republicans will do as much as they can to make sure it does fail. I'm unaware of anybody who argues that Obamacare is perfect, but there are things that could be done to improve it considerably — if the Republicans wanted to. But both Trump and Ryan said in their post-failure remarks that there "isn't much that can be done" to fix it, thus they are moving from "repeal and replace" to "wait for collapse and replace."

Already a clever meme is circulating:

Occupy Democrats meme

For all those who were sure that Trump's reputation (probably largely self-burnished) for deal-making would enable him to carry out the ambitious agenda he's set for his administration, it may be time for sober reflection.

And finally, a bit of a funny: after the debacle had played itself out, the press-conferences held, and punditry at full bore, an ad appeared on MSNBC proclaiming the virtues of the Trump/Ryan plan. I'm glad to see those bozos waste their money.

Last updated on Mar 24, 2017

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